“Condemned Children” from Bessi’s March … (reportage)

AA / Ouagadougou / Dramane Traore

Young Drissa Ouedraogo tries to break blocks of large stones into several pieces, under a small makeshift shed made of worn-out tarps and blankets. In the midst of several hundred people, we see teenagers and children, some with loads on their heads. We are in the granite quarry Bessi on the western outskirts of the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, where children “accompany” their parents in search of food.

“I’m here to help my grandmother break stones. Thanks to this activity our family has been fed,” says 12-13-year-old Drissa Ouedraogo. “I did not go to school,” he notes, adding that he “accompanied” his parents in this profession for several years.

Robert Wiedraogo, who is happy to serve as a guide, explains right away.

In broken French, he says, “People complain that children work here. For us, they go with their parents. They help their parents find something to eat. It’s better than going to steal.”

He is aware, however, that some children work in difficult conditions on the site. “There are well-meaning people who come here with protective gear. But for a while, we didn’t see them anymore. Sometimes children get injured. with hammers; But we have no choice.”

Among the children encountered at the site are girls. Their task most often is to move stone blocks from inside the pit to rise to the surface. An obstacle course, according to young Rukita Sawadogo who also says she “escorts” her mother to the site.

– “Land Mining Site”

According to data from NGOs, artisanal open-air quarry mining in this region of Ouagadougou provides a daily livelihood for about 4,000 people, including men, women and children.

Today, Roqueta’s mother told us: “I have been working here for more than 5 years. My daughter accompanies me. She is 15 years old and we work together. We need enough equipment to facilitate our work.”

The Pissy quarry is one of the “traditional” mining sites that justifies the organization of work and the methods used calling it “overland mining sites,” as explains a study titled “Child labor and the right to education in Burkina Faso: the example of a Pissy profession,” published by sociologist Josephine Wangu in 2011. .

According to the sociologist, this profession has existed since the colonial period and techniques have not changed. There are four classes of workers: granite block “dividers” (adult men), “crushers” (women), middlemen (adult men responsible for reselling the finished product) and children mainly “crushers” or street vendors.

Osman Nana, the truck driver, confirms, “Here a little work is done on the chain. Everyone has a very specific role. Children especially find themselves in the chain breaking and reselling.” He is responsible for delivering orders to customers who come to buy granite.

Nana explained that the clients, among others, are contractors working in the construction sector and also individuals, because the crushed granite is used to make concrete.

Crushing consists of reducing granite blocks into pieces. “This is why work is so hard,” Arno Kabore, another barely 15-year-old, tells us.

Most of the children encountered during the Anadolu Agency visit to the site say that they work alongside their parents.

By listening to parents and children, sociologist Josephine Wanguo said in her study, “It becomes clear that child labor in the profession has many functions.”

Noting that “it is related first to the economic situation of the family, which dictates the participation of the child in the family’s income. Children work to support parents to increase the income, even if their contribution is often minimal.”

– ‘Slave-like’ working conditions

Statements supported by Maryam Sawadogo, Rokita’s mother, who believes it is a way to “occupy” the children, as well as to involve them in their search for a livelihood.

Children and teens are also accessing the site to “make their money” and because they haven’t found other paid work, according to sociologist Wouango.

For Omaro Elbodo, Consultant Framework for Consultation of Associations and NGOs Active in Basic Education in Burkina Faso (CCEB-BF), child labor conditions in sites, whatever their nature, are “very similar to those of slavery”.

He explained in an interview with Anadolu Agency that “the children in the sites work there between 8 and 10 hours a day, and their work consists of digging, crushing, washing and transporting ore without any protection.”

He noted, “These overworked efforts are playing a negative role in their health, development and education. More than 700,000 children have been registered in gold mining (artisanal gold mining) sites according to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Demography (INSD).” .

CCEB-BF, which currently has 200 member associations and NGOs, mainly works to influence education policies, and then conduct research/work activities to identify deficiencies in the education sector in order to suggest solutions.

Returning to the causes of child labor, Elbodo sees it as a multidimensional phenomenon based on social and cultural values ​​and constraints related to the education of children on the one hand, but also on the context of the globalized economic situation characterized by the impoverishment of families in both rural and urban areas.

Burkina Faso, like many countries, celebrates the World Day Against Child Labor on June 12, 2022 in Ouagadougou, under the slogan “Universal Social Protection to End Child Labour”.

“La commémoration de cette journée vise à attirer l’attention sur l’ampleur du travail des enfants et l’impérieuse nécessité de redéfinir de nouvelles lignes on tenant compte du nouveau contexte pour l’élimination du travail des enfantst, a godanséuvernet” statement.

The Minister in charge of labour, Basolma Bazie, warned in a statement published, Sunday, that the child labor situation in Burkina Faso “could deteriorate further in light of the security crisis that caused on March 31, 2022 the displacement of approximately 185,293 internally displaced persons.” Among them, children between the ages of 5 and 17 represent 44.02%.”
Bazi explained that the absence or interruption of children’s education automatically exposes them to the worst forms of work or increases their exposure to early work, one of the harmful consequences of which may be their recruitment into terrorism.
“Family poverty, amplified by the loss of property of the population in areas affected by terrorism, deprives children of their basic needs, especially the right to nutrition, health, housing and education,” A- said, adding that “this situation cannot be addressed if we adopt a comprehensive approach of By attacking the main causes of the phenomenon while protecting child victims and those at risk through actions directed towards the “employability of their parents”.

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